AUSTRALIA’S top young meat sheep judges not only have a good eye for stock, they are making plans to build their places in the industry.
Last week, the 2021 and 2022 finalists in the meat sheep judging competed at the Sydney Royal Easter Show, after 2021 competition was unable to be held at Brisbane’s Ekka show due to COVID cancellations.
Winner of the 2022 meat sheep judging competition Tess Runting from Mt Eliza on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula and the runner-up was Megan Baker, 17, from Orangeville in New South Wales ahead of Chloe Taylor, 18, from Bindi Bindi in Western Australia.
Tess is already well-advanced in setting her career path, working full-time, while making plans to process the wool from her 200-sheep Corriedale stud, Moralla Corriedales, and save for her first farm.
The 23 year-old said she got involved in agriculture at age 11 at the Woodley School in Langwarrin. She started her stud with Liberton, Sweetfield, Loddon Park and Croydon blood.
“I’ve got my Corriedales down in Baxter.”
Tess attributes her meat sheep judging skills to assessing her dual purpose Corriedales for meat and structure. She has also worked with the Chandpara Southdown Stud at Tylden, working with founder Andrew Sellars-Jones during lambings over the past 10 years, seeing first-hand the impact of breeding for good growth rate and ease of lambing in the meat breed.
“Other than I have always involved myself in the youth competitions at the shows and done lots of junior judging competitions and experienced lots of different breeds.
“This is my first win at a national level.”
Tess said she had put on hold her bachelor of agricultural science degree studies at the University of Melbourne and is looking at changing over to Charles Sturt University to focus on her full-time work as a horse manager at The Ranch adventure park on the peninsula.
Tess said she is passionate about encouraging other young people into the industry and educating the public about where their food and fibre comes from “and how important that is,” and she has started an independent young farmer group.
“I’m hoping to continue the stud and hopefully have my own property one day to be able to encourage others into the industry.”
Tess said her main focus with Corriedale flock is on the wool and has been stockpiling her clips for the past four years with the aim of eventually getting it processed for sale as wool tops.
“I’ve been skirting and classing it myself and making connections with the different places that I can get it processed, and learning from friends who have done the same thing.
“I have a few local businesses who are interested in selling it and I would love for it to be something that has a story to it where people can track where it comes from.”
Reece has learned with his grandparents’ guidance
The nation’s best young meat breeds sheep judge in the 2021 competition was Reece Webster, 20 from White Rock in New South Wales. The 2021 runner-up was Molly Cornish, 22, from Bridport, Tasmania and third was Georgia Lee, 26, from Harristown in Queensland.
Reece said comes from a family-owned stud and prime lamb property at Bathurst in New South Wales. The property hosts two Suffolk studs – one he owns, Lindean, and his grandparents’ Cotties Run – plus the Cotties Run Southdown stud, some Angus breeders and a commercial first and second cross lamb flock.
At the show, his stud won champion Suffolk ram and ewe, the Peter Taylor Memorial Trophy for the group of three animals, and the ram placed third in the interbreed prime ram lamb class.
Reece attributes his meat sheep judging skills to inheriting his stud in 2013 and the continued support of his grandparents. He is his final year of a bachelor of ag science course at the University of New England at Armidale.
“Beyond that, I’m probably looking at ruminant nutrition and animal health and welfare or export consultancy – anything to do with ruminant production or nutrition.”
Reece said he knows what type of sheep he wants to breed and stick to his “own path.”
“I think a lot people are following, I just feel that if follow what you believe is the right thing the market will eventually come to you.”
He intends to put his sheep into the industry genetic evaluation scheme Lambplan.
“I do see the benefit in it and numbers are very important in the industry, but I think if you understand the phenotypic traits clearly that’s all you need, I believe.”
He supports the industry trend toward lamb eating quality, backed by carcase assessment and standards for marbling and indexing, to lift consumption.
“I don’t see the lamb industry going forward unless we follow those things.”
Competitions recognise best new talent in livestock judging
Agricultural Shows Australia said although animal judging is subjective, the judging of the young judges is objective, with competitors being assessed on their animal handling and ranking, compared to the findings of an experienced judge. The judges pay close attention to is how clearly competitors express their decision, how they validate it and the time taken. The ASA said a competitor’s appearance is also important and judges can mark down for poor presentation.
ASA chairman Dr. Rob Wilson said the competition is designed to recognise the best new talent in livestock judging nationwide.
“It’s an extremely prestigious event and positions at the nationals are keenly contested.
“These young people are the future of agricultural show competitions which are crucial to the continual improvement of Australia’s food and fibre,” he said.
“The national competition is a coveted opportunity to grow personally and professionally by practising skills against the cream of the crop.”
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